Ripken: Gehrig a great player and 'great man'

June 1st, 2021

As Major League Baseball prepares to celebrate the inaugural Lou Gehrig Day on Wednesday, the connection between Gehrig and Orioles Hall of Fame shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. remains strongly rooted. Chances are, it always will.

It has been more than a quarter century since Ripken Jr. surpassed Gehrig as baseball’s Iron Man, and his 2,632 consecutive games played streak is widely considered one of the sport’s most unbreakable records. Gehrig played in 2,130 straight games from June 1, 1925, to April 30, 1939, when he abruptly retired to fight ALS, which is now known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Gehrig died from ALS a little more than two years later in 1941, at age 37.

MLB is planning a special collection of activities Wednesday to exhibit how Gehrig's legacy endures eight decades later. The Orioles and home teams will display “4-ALS” logos in their ballparks, commemorating Gehrig’s number “4.” Additionally, all players, managers and coaches will wear a special “Lou Gehrig Day” patch on their uniform. Red “4-ALS” wristbands will also be available to be worn in-game.

“As the record was being closer to being broken, I remember not wanting to learn about Lou Gehrig,” Ripken said Tuesday. “I wanted to keep things where they were. But it was impossible not to. You learn about how great a player he was, how great a man he was -- very well respected. I remember a lot of times they would compare my career with his. I thought, 'How can you compare me to one of the greatest players to ever play the game?' I was extremely honored.”

Ripken was so moved by stories of Gehrig’s courage and perseverance, he says now he wished he had the chance to meet the man. To avoid the topic during his streak was impossible, he said, “because everywhere I went, people were talking to me about Lou,” he said. Ripken also remembers being told Gehrig stories as a boy by his father and coach Cal Sr.

“My dad loved baseball, so he’d talk about the main figures in baseball history,” Ripken said. “If your dad said something about a baseball player, you stood up and listened. And Gehrig was one of the players he would acknowledge as one of the greatest players in the game.

"I remember everybody talking about what a good guy [Gehrig] was. I think my parents, and many other players, point players like that to the attention of their kids so they can gravitate toward them. I picked up on the theme that not only was he a great player, but he was a great man.”

Said Ripken: “I played the game to meet the challenge every single day, and have your teammates count on you. I am certain that was Lou Gehrig’s makeup.”

As part of Wednesday's festivities, the Orioles will also honor Bryan Wayne Galentine, one of the driving forces behind Lou Gehrig Day. Back in 2019, Galentine and a group of friends began conversations with MLB to honor Gehrig in a similar way to how the league honors Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente. Two days after each team pledged its commitment in October 2020, Galentine died of ALS. The Orioles Charitable Foundation will donate $5,000 to "I am ALS" in Galentine’s honor, and his son, Grayson, will throw the ceremonial first pitch before Baltimore's series finale against Minnesota.

The O's will also feature signed 4ALS baseballs and other game-used memorabilia in an auction from Monday, June 7 at 5 p.m. ET, to Sunday, June 13 at 10 p.m. ET, to support Brigance Brigade, the ALS Association and the Johns Hopkins Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis clinic.